Michael Massing, a former executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, is the author of Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind. (February 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

How to Cover the One Percent

Billionaires Bill Gates and Carlos Slim at the opening of a new research facility for the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Texcoco, Mexico, February 2013

As the concentration of wealth in America has grown, so has the scale of philanthropy. Today, that activity is one of the principal ways in which the superrich not only “give back” but also exert influence, yet it has not received the attention it deserves.

NYR DAILY

Are the Humanities History?

Johann Moreelse: The Young Poet (Youth Transcribing Homer), circa 1630

On all fronts, fields like history and English, philosophy and classical studies, art history and comparative literature are under siege. Almost all disciplines have been affected, but none more so than history. The number of history majors nationwide fell from 34,642 in 2008 to 24,266 in 2017. Languages and literature courses have been hit, too: between 2013 and 2016, US colleges cut 651 foreign-language programs. Defenders of the humanities generally emphasize what the field can do for the individual: they promote self-discovery, breed good citizens, and teach critical thinking. No doubt the humanities do broaden the mind and deepen the soul. But to dismiss their practical worth seems both short-sighted and self-defeating.

Trump & CNN: Case History of an Unhealthy Codependency

People shouting behind CNN reporter Jim Acosta before a Trump rally, West Columbia, South Carolina, June 25, 2018

With the divisions in the country seeming to harden in the wake of the midterms, journalists need to do a better job of overcoming them. Sadly, Jim Acosta’s confrontation with President Trump at the post-election press conference seemed certain to heighten the divisions. For CNN, the encounter added to their star reporter’s visibility and the network’s image as a fighter for press freedom. To Trump and his supporters, Acosta’s grandstanding provided further evidence of the news media’s implacable hostility to them. Each side, in short, seemed to get from the encounter exactly what it wanted.

Luther vs. Erasmus: When Populism First Eclipsed the Liberal Elite

Lucas Cranach the Elder: Martin Luther, circa 1532; Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523

Erasmus was an internationalist who sought to establish a borderless Christian union; Luther was a nationalist who appealed to the patriotism of the German people. Where Erasmus wrote exclusively in Latin, Luther often used the vernacular, the better to reach the common man. Erasmus wanted to educate a learned caste; Luther, to evangelize the masses. For years, they waged a battle of ideas, with each seeking to win over Europe to his side. But in a turbulent and polarized age, Erasmus became an increasingly marginal figure: the archetypal reasonable liberal.